Cinema

'Yennai Arindhaal': A thin line stops it from being terrific





 

The kernel of a Gautham V. Menon (GVM) film is its love story.  That’s his tour de force. While his romances  — MinnaleNeethaane En PonvasanthamVinnaithaandi Varuvaaya — are obvious examples of this, the best parts in even his cop films —  Kaakha Kaakha and  Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu — to me, were the love scenes.

So, in  Yennai Arindhaal, when he shows Sathyadev (Ajith Kumar) falling in love with Hemanika (Trisha), a single mother of a two-year-old, you cannot but revel in the delight and ask yourself if there is another Tamil director who so thrives in rubbishing time-tested rules of Tamil film romance.

This is, after all, an industry where the majority of filmmakers, when showing a hero in love with, say, a divorced woman, find it necessary to prove that she is still a virgin, still pure… that some stroke of fortune somehow stopped her from  making love (as GVM would call it) to her original partner.

You are in for more delight when the other leading woman in the film, Thenmozhi (Anushka), turns the tables on the guy-stalking-the-girl Tamil film cliché, and  woos (he would say this too) the guy. She compliments his dressing, she says he looks attractive, and she is, as they are walking out of an airport, literally following him. Like Maya in  Kaakha Kaakha, like Priya in  Vaaranam Aayiram. It has still not gotten old.

A cop film 

However,  Yennai Arindhaal, wherever I may deem its soul to be, is a cop film. The title credits that show stylised animations of objects like guns, handcuffs, explosives, and bullets make it quite obvious. Sathyadev is all force and flair. He is suave, he is comfortable conversing in English, and he is, sometimes problematically, trigger-happy.

In one scene, a well-wisher of Sathyadev says, “Only American policemen seem to appear stylish. Our local force only seems to be burdened with boring bundobust work.” This opinion is in stark contrast to the cop that GVM presents. Even when Sathyadev is forced by circumstances to sit at a table and perform administrative duties, he does so, reminiscing the good ol’ times when he would kick a table aside and send round after round of bullets into groups of criminals. He is a man of action. In one inspired sequence in the beautifully shot ‘Mazhai Vara Pogudhe’ (cinematographer Dan Macarthur), you are shown alternating sequences of Hemanika performing classical dance and Sathyadev shooting criminals in slow motion. This is what he enjoys; fighting is his dance. This is, as he calls it in an exchange with his friend-turned-foe Victor, his ‘itch’.

 

This itch, of course, gets him into trouble, and if you have seen at least one GVM cop film, you know that the family of a cop is in perennial danger. If I found myself getting a little irked when the director repeated his heroine-getting-caught-in-the-crossfire trope in  Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu (after  Kaakha Kaakha),  Yennai Arindhaal’s use of this plot device again was frustrating. Despite this, the first half of the film is gloriously entertaining, thanks to the director beautifully playing to the gallery. He knows he is directing Ajith, and he is pulling no punches.

There is a cheeky Vivek reference to the actor’s salt-and-pepper hair style, and in another scene, Ajith’s famous car driving skills come to the fore, as he spins his car round and round, kicking up a dust storm. Ajith, as a GVM cop, is sumptuous. Never is it more evident than in a warehouse scene when he sits in quiet contemplation, tensely gauging his options and considering if he should go guns blazing at the thugs. And then, as the camera focusses on nothing in particular, Ajith walks into the shot with his guns out and pointed at the thugs. This is a stand-up-on-the-seat-and-cheer moment if ever there was one, especially when you add Harris Jayaraj’s theme music into the mix. After a brief hiatus, the director again joins hands with the composer, his longtime associate. Jayaraj's theme music is a clear winner — every time it plays (and it does a number of times), it dutifully whips up frenzy.



Genre: Drama Thriller
Director: Gautham Vasudev Menon
Cast: Ajith Kumar, Trisha Krishnan, Anushka Shetty, Arun Vijay
Storyline: A cop, while fighting an old rival, learns about himself.


 

And then, without warning, the simplicity of the story gets muddled by the introduction of an organ trafficking angle. I couldn’t but wonder what would have been, had the story stuck to the beauty of its simplicity, had it perhaps just been about the all-consuming powerful rivalry of two erstwhile friends who chose different paths in life. In Sathyadev’s powerful words, “ Oru melisaana kodu" (a thin line) is after all what separates a gangster from a police officer. There is even a beautiful reference to this line later in the film when Sathyadev has a telephone conversation with Victor, the gangster (Arun Vijay, in a performance that is redolent of Jeevan’s performance in  Kaakha Kaakha). The screen splits into two halves to show both men on their cellphones, and in a subtle revelatory moment, you notice that a thin black line runs in the centre to separate their respective shots — a literal ‘ melisaana kodu’. 

Why couldn’t the film have just been about these two? There is also much needless yelling and trash-talking towards the end. Doesn’t Sathyadev’s charm lie in his composure? After all, when five thugs threaten to invade his home and abduct a woman, he stands at the door and calmly informs them that they will have to go past him but that, unfortunately, they can't, as he will kill anybody who tries. That steeliness, that sophisticated composure is what you love about a GVM hero — even when he abuses, he generally has an admirable air of self-assurance that even spills into arrogance. Sathyadev himself seems to realise this mistake when he tells Victor, “ Podhum, nariya pesittom(Enough, we’ve spoken too much).”

 

A rushed climax, a problematic organ trafficking angle, a repeated plot device, a predictable ending… and yet  Yennai Arindhaal comes as a breath of fresh air, especially at a time when big-budget films haven’t quite lived up to their hype. There's just that one  melisaana kodu that stops it from being terrific.

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2020 3:54:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/yennai-arindhaal-film-reviewa-thin-line-stops-it-from-being-terrific/article6861187.ece

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